A look at the old and new faces set to take the reins of the troubled former Soviet republic.
Deposed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich has said he was forced from power by pro-Fascist forces and blamed the Ukraine’s crisis on the West for “indulging” protesters seeking his ouster.
Yanukovich told reporters on Friday that he would not give up the fight for his country’s future, denouncing the new authorities in Ukraine as “young neo-fascists”.
“Nobody overthrew me, I was forced to leave Ukraine because of imminent threat to my life and family,” he said in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don in his first public appearance for almost a week, adding that he would return to Ukraine once he received international safety guarantees.
Yanukovich said that Ukraine’s current parliament was illegitimate, voting under pressure from EuroMaidan “militants”.
“The laws adopted at the parliament are not valid as I did not sign them,” he said, adding that the presidential poll scheduled for May was also “illegal” and he would take part in it.
“Power was taken by nationalists, fascists youngsters who are the absolute minority of Ukraine,” he said in the news conference.
He blamed the “irresponsible policies” of the West for the crisis in the country and said “terror and chaos” were now prevailing in the country.
“This is the result of the irresponsible policies of the West, which was supporting the Maidan,” Yanukovich said, referring to the square in Kiev where anti-government demonstrations have taken place over the past three months.
He said lawlessness and chaos had followed an agreement he signed with his opponents last Friday, which was brokered by the European Union and was intended to end three months of crisis.
He added that he had been “compelled to leave” Ukraine after he received threats to his security and apologised “to the Ukrainian people” for not having had more strength to endure the situation.
Yanukovich said that he has not met Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, after leaving Ukraine, adding that they spoke on the phone and agreed to meet soon.
“Knowing the character of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, I am surprised that he is until now so restrained and silent [on the Ukrainian crisis],” he also said.
Only hours after Yanukovich’s remarks, Putin called for a rapid return to normality in Ukraine and warned against any further escalation of unrest, in telephone calls with key EU leaders, the Kremlin said.
Putin emphasised “the extreme importance of not allowing a further escalation of violence and the necessity of a rapid normalisation of the situation,” the Kremlin said after Putin had separate phone conversations with British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Herman van Rompuy, the president of the European Council.
The deposed president also commented on the release of his rival Yulia Tymoshenko, the former Ukrainian prime minister, who had been imprisoned over corruption charges.
He said that Tymoshenko was in very good conditions when she was in prison, adding: “I never wanted anything evil for her. I have nothing personal against her.”
Referring to a Russian-Ukrainian natural gas agreement Tymoshenko was imprisoned for, he said, “The agreement she signed with Russia made Ukraine lose over 20 billion dollars.”
“Many people in Kiev regard Yanukovich as yesterday’s man and they want to see him in trial,” Al Jazeera’s Tim Fiend said, reporting from Kiev.
Yanikovich also called on the Crimeans not to let bloodshed happen in the region, where unidentified armed men have taken over two airports and some state buildings.
He repeated that he still saw himself as the Ukrainian president and as such believed that Crimea must remain a part of Ukraine.
Two Crimean airports – the main international airport of Simferopol and a military airfield in Sevastopol – have been taken over by what the Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov claimed to be members of the Russian Federation Fleet, according to a statement he posted on his Facebook account.
The Russian Black Sea Fleet issued a statement denying the accusation and insisted its forces had not seized or taken any other action at a military airport near Sevastopol, the port on Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula where the fleet is based, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported.
Date set for referendum
Crimea’s pro-Yanukovich autonomous parliament has set a referendum date on the region’s status on May 25, according to AFP news agency, which is the same day during which the new government in Kiev is set to hold fresh presidential elections.
Furthermore, Vladimir Konstantinov, speaker of Crimea’s parliament, said on Thursday the autonomous republic appointed a new prime minister, Sergei Aksenov, with Yanukovich’s approval.
According to Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel Hamid, who is reporting from Simferopol, the Crimean authorities underline that they do not want to break up Crimea from Ukraine.
“People here want to go on with their autonomy, and do not want to lose what they have,” she said.
Al Jazeera’s Tim Fiend in Kiev said the country’s interim government was alarmed over what was happening in Crimea and wanted United Nations to be involved in the issue.
The Ukrainian parliament, which voted days ago to oust President Yanukovich, has recently called for a UN Security Council meeting to discuss developments in Crimea.
Ukraine’s interim government has issued an arrest warrant for Yanukovich, accusing him of being responsible for the deaths of at least 70 protesters on February 21 protests in Kiev.